President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday he “essentially” fired his former Pentagon chief James Mattis, despite a resignation letter in which Mattis wrote he was departing because he didn’t share Trump’s worldview.
“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But, as you know, President (Barack) Obama fired him and essentially so did I,” Trump said. “I want results.”
Mattis departed as head of Central Command under Obama, in part because of disagreements over Iran.
In his resignation letter to Trump, Mattis said the President deserved a Defense chief more closely aligned with his “America First” views. Aides said at the time that Trump was frustrated at coverage of Mattis’ resignation.
Trump said during his Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that Mattis was thrilled when Trump secured hundreds of millions of dollars in military funding. But he said Mattis hadn’t provided any success in return.
“What’s he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. Not too good. I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan and I shouldn’t be happy,” Trump said.
After recalling a meeting in which he questioned why the Taliban could not fight ISIS without US involvement, Trump mused he might have made a good military man.
“I think I would have been a good general but who knows?” Trump said. While of the Vietnam era, Trump himself did not serve after receiving a draft exemption for bone spurs.
He went on to defend his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria — which was a facet of Mattis’ decision to resign — saying the country was not worth the US effort.
“We’re talking about sand and death. We’re not talking about vast wealth. We’re talking about sand and death,” he said.
Questioned about a time line for withdrawing US troops from Syria, Trump did not offer a specific number of months.
“Somebody said four months. I didn’t say that,” he said, adding later: “I think it’s just over a period of time.”